Saturday, November 17, 2007

On Holland

Why isn't this in my quote books?
Holland is an extremely neat and well-ordered mud-puddle, situated at the confluence of the English, French, and German languages.

-- W.E.B. Du Bois

How Do You Get a Libertarian To Accept Trade Favoritism?

Show her a country whose entire population will likely permanently collapse into grinding poverty if its favorable trade status is ended! Megan McArdle takes a look at Cambodia:
Most developing countries start with textiles, just as England did 200 years ago. But Cambodia's garment trade is incredibly dependent on special treatment from America, where it sells almost all its wares. Since the expiration of the Multi-Fiber Agreement in 2004, which imposed quotas on textiles in the developing world, countries like China and Vietnam have been subject to special, stopgap measures to dampen down the flood of textiles they can pour into Western markets. In exchange for enacting higher labor standards (and also for being really small and poor), Cambodia has been exempted from this treatment.

In theory, this is a bad thing; trade should go where the market dictates. In practice, it's hard to criticize something which is pulling a lot of very poor people into decent-paying jobs. And Cambodia's 14 million population can hardly be said to be doing serious damage to China, or even Vietnam.

I think Megan is right -- Cambodia needs a few more years still to get on its feet, build up its infrastructure, and diversify its economy (like Vietnam is beginning to do). Pull the rug out from underneath it now, and it will get completely swamped by the greater economic heft of its neighbors, and might never recover.

I Am a Slayer of Worlds

I just found out I beat a Rhodes Scholar in debate!

Allow me to explain. My first ever round of varsity LD in high school (sophomore year), I faced a young woman from a nearby school -- let's call her Jane. Jane was a sophomore as well, but far more experienced than I was, and extremely talented by any measure. It was a mismatch. I got stomped, and she went on to win the tournament.

But for some reason she remembered me fondly, and we became friends. The next year, at NCFL nationals, we were hanging out at lunch, going over each other's cases and swapping ideas, potential rebuttals and responses, etc.. And then, wouldn't you know it, we are paired against each other for round four. What are the odds?

So we trooped into the classroom, giggling like maniacs. I explained to the judges that we had just spent all of lunch reviewing each other's cases, so this might be a rather odd round. And it was -- but the extra preparation also made it into an awesome display. All our arguments were tight and on the money. And with an additional year's experience, I avenged my previous defeat and took Jane down on a 2-1 decision. That was on my way to my best LD performance of my career -- a quarterfinals appearance at the national tournament (where I proceeded to get spanked by the eventual champion).

Anyway, Jane IMed me today to inform me that she won the Rhodes Scholarship. A few days ago she won the Marshall Scholarship, so I knew she was already running in that circle (though -- knowing Jane -- I have to say she is the one person who I would have been more surprised to find out she didn't win the scholarships than that she did. The woman is just operating on another level from us mortals). Congratulations are in order to her, of course, but due respect to me as well -- Junior year of high school, I bested her in argumentative combat.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Huey P. Newton on Women and Gays

The founder of the Black Panther Party wrote this essay "the women's liberation and gay liberation movements" on August 15, 1970. I was, I admit, shocked when I first read it. It is way ahead of its time, and stands in stark contrast to the classic view of Black militant groups as irredeemably misogynist and homophobic:
During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

What ever your personal opinions and insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say "whatever your insecurities are" because as well very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the woman or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you're some kind of threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our [*158] ever constituting any value that said a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women's right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations, that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.

And what made them homosexuals? Perhaps it's a phenomenon that I don't understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don't know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn't view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe now I'm injecting some of my own prejudice by saying that "even a homosexual can be a revolutionary." Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women's liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counterrevolutionary, then criticize that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we [*159] should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women's liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say "insecurities," I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process that builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms "faggot" and "punk" should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women's liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.

Huey P. Newton, "The Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements: August 15, 1970", in The Huey P. Newton Reader, David Hilliard & Donald Weise, eds. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002), pp. 157-59.

It's hardly perfect -- the references to revolution feel anachronistic, and it does not quite seem as if Newton is on board with the idea that there are homosexuals of all races. But it's hugely progressive for 1970, and Newton's insistence that we grapple with our prejudices (and he didn't exempt himself from it) is worth noting even today.

Newton was a sharp guy, for those of you who don't know. He had a Ph.D from UC-Santa Cruz -- not an honorary one either. He was serious, and worth reading seriously.

Students of Color at Private Universities

In response to comments to this post, I decided to take a quick gander through the internets to find the percentage of students of color at a variety of private colleges and universities, elite and not.* I split off Asian-Americans specifically, as they are not an under-represented group,** and do not include international students except insofar as they are included in other ethnicities. I was curious to find out whether, in fact, these elite schools had lower enrollments of minority students than their more mainstream peers. I selected private school specifically because their enrollment base was less likely to be geographically based -- while many people attend the local public university because it's close by, I roughly believed that private schools were more likely to have a national admissions pool. That is to say, people who are applying to private schools are more likely to apply to academically comparable schools around the country. That obviously is a wild over-generalization, but it helps stabilize the pool somewhat.

This is entirely non-scientific. The colleges were chosen by the randomized sample of "I thought of them." I did make vague efforts at geographical diversity, however, as well as include both large and small schools. Hence, each category should have 5 small colleges, and 6 larger ones.

"Elite" [Non-Asian/Asian]

Amherst: 28% (15%/13%)

Brown: 30% (16%/14%)

Carleton: 22% (12%/10%)

Chicago: 25% (12%/13%)

Duke: 32% (18%/14%)

Harvard: 30% (16%/14%)

Pomona: 33% (19%/14%)

Stanford: 47% (23%/24%)

Swarthmore: 36% (17%/19%)

Williams: 30% (19%/11%)

Yale: 30% (17%/13%)

"Non-Elite" (Non-Asian/Asian)

Allegheny: 6% (3%/3%)

Beloit: 9% (7%/2%)

Bennington: 6% (4%/2%)

Boston University: 22% (8%/13%)

Drexel: 26% (13%/13%)

Goucher: 11% (8%/3%)

Seton Hall: 28% (22%/6%)

St. Olaf: 8% (3%/5%)

Tulsa: 17% (15%/2%)

Villanova: 17% (10%/7%)

Wake Forest: 14% (9%/5%)

As I said, this is entirely non-scientific. However, it does point that elite schools tend to have a higher enrollment of students of color -- particularly in small schools. Non-elite liberal arts colleges are almost painfully White -- only Goucher managed to eke its way into double-digits in its minority enrollment. Meanwhile, Carleton, the least diverse "elite" school, still had a higher percentage of non-White students than all but three "non-elite" schools. The most diverse non-elite school, Seton Hall, would have tied for 9th with Amherst College on the elite list.

A few words about the data. First of all, it's entirely non-scientific. I plugged in colleges as they sprang to mind. My only qualification is that they were not public universities, and not explicitly religious academies (a religious affiliation, as in St. Olaf's, was okay). Second, it's incomplete. Many students don't report their ethnicity. So, for example, the total percentages for Amherst's students of color only reaches 28% -- but Caucasians are only listed as comprising 45% of the population. Third, the variety of locations for international students confounds that data somewhat -- I don't know whether they are incorporated into ethnic groups, and if not, I don't know how the international student population breaks down in terms of White/non-White.

* This is a totally arbitrary designation by me, but when I say "elite" I mean the absolute cream of the crop. The schools I designate as "non-elite" are still fine institutions in their own right.

** This is itself misleading, as while East and South Asians tend to do quite well in the college admissions game, Southeast and Island Asian students are, in fact, quite underrepresented. It is somewhat of a anomaly to group, say, Koreans, Indians, Hmong, and Filipinos in the same group. But there is no way to disconnect them, so I make the compromises I must.

Oh Christ, No

Lou Dobbs is floating a Presidential bid. Via The Plank, which notes, reassuringly, that this is almost definitely just a ratings plug for Dobbs.

The Tragedy of Mitt Romney

Reacting to Andrew Sullivan's lament that Mitt Romney's campaign may be doomed by Christian Right opposition to the idea of voting for a Mormon (particularly when -- finally -- a far more palatable Christianist candidate is finally showing some viability in Mike Huckabee), Matt Yglesias responds:
There is some shame here, but I don't pity Romney. He could have tried to run as a political heir to George Romney on the basis of his record in Massachusetts, as a moderate technocrat. But he decided to try to remake himself as the Christian Right candidate, so it's really pretty fitting for him to be laid low by a real-deal preacher man like Huckabee or even a more plausible actor like Hollywood Fred.

If I'm not mistaken, Yglesias actually voted for Romney when he was running for Governor of Massachusetts, so he's got a legitimate complaint here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Work, Work

It's my girlfriend's birthday today! Everybody wish Jill a happy birthday!

However, while I love and adore her, Jill is much bigger than I am, and thus will probably unleash significant physical pain upon me if I spend the day blogging. So, I'm likely off for the day.

Showing our Thousand Flowers

United States Public Affairs Officer Frederick C. Jochem, Burma, 1947:
A Burmese friend was astonished the other day when I told him that a Negro had just been appointed to a professorship in my university back home. We were discussing the "Negro problem" in America, and it turned out that a number of facts and viewpoints that I take for granted are surprising news in Burma. [Quoted in Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000), 47]

Dudziak's book focuses on how America's hideous treatment of Black Americans during the Cold War became a major strategic liability in our diplomatic outreach programs (much of which touted the American model as one of liberty, democracy, and equality). Consequently, she argues, much of the institutional push by the U.S. government in favor of civil rights can be traced by a desire to diffuse this brewing threat to America's moral supremacy. And the US expended significant effort and resources showcasing Black contributions to American society, most notably in the state-sponsored goodwill tours around the globe by African-American jazz musicians (a practice explored in Penny M. Von Eschen's fantastically named Satchmo Blows Up The World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2004)).

Keep the perception of Mr. Jochem's Burmese friend in mind while reading this Slate article on how foreigners suggest America can improve its global image:
Several readers emphasize that many foreigners, even those with high levels of education, have no concept of American life. They don't know that most Americans are religious people. They don't know that most of us aren't wildly rich. They're skeptical of reports that many black people live here—or dismiss them as not "real Americans."
And so the most prominent suggestion on how to improve America's face in the world—a suggestion made by well over half of those who wrote me—is to send the world more American faces and to bring more of the world's faces into America.

In other words, these readers say, there should be a vast expansion in the Peace Corps, in Fulbright fellowships, and, above all, in student-exchange programs.

An American exchange student in Jordan writes of the foreigners he's met: "Once they see Americans—blacks, Jews, Asians, and 'real' Americans, as they call blonde-haired Caucasians—and hear their diverse opinions on issues from the War in Iraq to pop music, then people realize how much diversity there is in our country."

With this same idea in mind, an American in Sudan adds that we should put particular emphasis on sending ethnically diverse Americans abroad.

Sixty years and still fighting the same battles. America's relative exclusion of a great many people from our public persona is not just a subject for liberal tears. It actively harms our image around the world. As it was in the Cold War, remedying racial exclusion is a matter of the gravest national interest. And indeed, Kevin Drum says the need to change America's "face" to the world may be one the best reasons to vote for Barack Obama. This coheres to my general view of casting an "affirmative action vote" for Obama. Obama is qualified and smart and politically agreeable -- but these are qualities he shares with several of his foes in the Democratic primary. What Obama has all to himself is that, in Drum's words, he is "the only one who would improve our standing just by being who he is." That's a qualification he has, that nobody else shares, and it deserves to enter into our political calculus when we enter the ballot box.

Once again, the interests of Whites and Blacks in America have converged, offering a chance for true synergy. We need to make the dream of the American creed a reality for all races. We need a strong, bright, qualified President. And we need to restore America's image around the world, and educate folks (with words and deeds) that there is more to America than just a bunch of wealthy White talking heads on TV and in the movies. Those goals are in accord with each other. This is an opportunity we'd be fools not to take advantage of.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mis-Match Mish-Mash

Earlier today, I linked to Professor Katherine Barnes' article debunking the claim that affirmative action causes minorities to be "mis-matched" at law schools above their level, and thus under-perform compared to how well they would do at a school more "appropriate" for their talents. Digging into the statistical data more deeply (Barnes has a Ph.D in statistics from the University of Arizona), she found that a more likely explanation for performance gaps by Black students is an environment hostile to students of color at our nation's colleges and universities.

Discussing this article, PG wonders how much, if at all, affirmative action contributes to this environment.
[I]f students and professors believe that African American and Latino students are less capable than white and Asian students, because the former were admitted under an affirmative action program and the latter on a "merit-based" system, this itself may be a significant source of discriminatory attitudes that impede minority students' learning. Even more disturbingly, if affirmative action programs cause minority students to believe themselves less capable than their classmates, the stereotype can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There's probably something to this, but not all the much, primarily because the "stigma" attached to minority students as under-qualified doesn't really seem traceable to affirmative action. As PG herself notes, when affirmative action is eliminated, conservatives simply convince themselves it is still occurring in disguise -- even when the Black population of a university drops precipitously. More generally, as Richard Delgado has noted, negative perceptions and stereotypes of students of color in America have, by and large, dropped over the 30 year period in which affirmative action was most active. Admittedly, it's certainly possible that these trends were at cross-purposes, and that the overall rising racial progressivism of the past few decades masked the harmful effects of affirmative action. But for that thesis to hold, you'd have to argue that the greater positive (or at least, not negative) perceptions of African-Americans was largely disconnected from their increased visibility in elite institutions and universities, which strikes me as implausible. It's tougher to be racist when a quarter of your college is Black -- when you can see for yourself that they can, in fact, do the work and speak proper English and are not hyper-sexed bestial maniacs. And by contrast, racist stereotypes of Black inferiority are clearly reinforced when they are largely absent from the institutions that you yourself take part in (institutions which are, of course, perfectly "meritorious").

Also on the mis-match thesis, I'd echo Professor Delgado's argument that it seems to have a rather confused idea of how people view the opportunity to attend "elite" schools. The mis-match argument
presupposes that exposure to first-rate education is not good for you but bad. Going to a school with a favorable student-faculty ratio and studying under nationally acclaimed professors is good for whites, but not for blacks. This is truly paradoxical, and I am surprised bright people assert it. Rich people of all eras have been sending their sons and daughters not to the worst, but the best schools they could get them into, sometimes bending the rules to do so. There is little reason to believe that what is true for whites is not true for blacks, Mexicans, and other minorities. [Richard Delgado, Ten Arguments Against Affirmative Action -- How Valid?, 50 Ala. L. Rev. 135, 142 (1998)]

I'm currently applying to law schools. Some of them are, without a doubt, "reaches." Harvard, Stanford, and Yale (which I'm convinced doesn't actually admit anyone, but is just engaging in a high-yield racket of applications fees) all have entering class profiles which are stretches for my numbers (for all three, my LSAT score is above their 75th percentile, but my GPA is well below their 25th percentile). By contrast, I seem to be a better "match" for NYU, Columbia, or Chicago, where I am right in the numerical wheelhouse. Nonetheless, I do not want to be rejected from any of these schools (to repeat, if any admissions officers from the aforementioned schools reading this blog -- I very much wish to be admitted!). I want the opportunity to test my ideas against the very finest minds in the land. I thirst to be taught by the most talented professors in the land, and work with the best and brightest students around. How is this not a good thing?

Back when I was applying to undergraduate schools, I was told by an admissions officer at Cornell that they could admit an entering class comprised entirely of students they rejected, and it would not look any different from a "normal" Cornell class. Past accomplishments, performance, potential -- totally the same. The reason, she told me, was that 90% of Cornell applicants have the tools to be successful at Cornell -- they are "qualified" to be there. They would not be mis-matched. Once you can past that first hurdle of capability (and the vast majority of students -- of any color -- who are applying to schools like Cornell, Yale, Harvard, or Stanford are extraordinarily capable and thus "qualified" in this sense), the question ceases to be about effectiveness, and turns into what each individual student is bringing to the table vis-a-vis his or her peers. That subjective, that's contingent on the vagaries of the applicant pool, and that's very difficult to map on to the concept of "merit". In a sense, it's unfair. But it certainly doesn't lead to mis-matches, unless something goes badly, badly wrong.

Rain Rain Go Away

I want to stress that there is nothing funny about the crippling drought that is currently affecting the state of Georgia. It's truly hurting a lot of people, and that's no laughing matter.

The timeline of Sonny Perdue's rain-prayer, however, is quite funny:
1. Georgia is in severe drought
2. Governor Perdue decides to pray for rain on Tuesday
3. Forecast called for rain Tuesday
4. Prayer service goes ahead as planned
5. Skies completely clear up immediately following prayer service
6. No rain

Maybe God doesn't like ostentatious displays of religiosity? Or maybe he just doesn't like Sonny Perdue?

PS: I was going to tag this post "climate", but then had to correct myself and write "weather", as the former would have been technically inaccurate. Score one for my Conservation Biology course!

David's J.L. & Cool Stuff (Vol. 3)

It's been awhile, but thanks to Concurring Opinion's "law review table of contents" project, finding neat articles is easier than ever!

Dan Ortiz, Nice Legal Studies (draft paper).

Katherine Y. Barnes, Is Affirmative Action Responsible for the Achievement Gap Between Black and White Law Students?, 101 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1759 (2007)

And of course....

David Schraub, When Separation Doesn't Work: The Religion Clause as an Anti-Subordination Principle, 5 Dartmouth L. Rev. 145 (2007) [note the pagination is wrong in the PDF].


Volume Two

Volume One

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Perm, Do Both

New Balloon Juice co-blogger Michael offers up his immigration plan. Put simply, it replaces the "family unification" objective with a merit-based system. So basically, instead of admitting immigrants primarily on the basis of whether they have relatives here, we admit them primarily on whether they are highly skilled and educated.

I have no problem with expanding the number of merit-based visas we give out. I'm proud that America continues to be the destination of choice for the world's best and brightest, and we'd be are fools not to tap into that resource. But I'm confused why this is in any way mutually exclusive with continuing to let in family unification immigrants -- an objective that Michael admits serves important humanitarian goals.

I will give Michael credit for taking his proposal seriously. He acknowledges that any meaningful effort at stemming familial immigration would have to involve repealing Section I of the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Michael
would change it to say that at least one parent must be a citizen of the United States. The only intent of foreign-born parents who give birth here (with few exceptions) is to ensure their child has U.S. citizenship. It’s their ticket in.

But this, I feel, misstates the motivation. The "anchor baby" motif has always struck me as a wildly uncharitable frame for why people choose to bear children in here. American citizenship isn't a ticket in, it's a ticket out: out of poverty, out of illiberal regimes, out of dead-end lives. Latino immigrants, just like the waves of immigrants who came before them, are seeking a better life for their children. And they know that US citizenship is part of that dream. Michael talks about giving a "hand up, not a hand out", but the folks with Ph.Ds aren't the one's who need a helping hand at all.

What Michael claims to be worried about is the creation of a perpetual underclass. Uneducated immigrants arrive on our shores, take menial jobs, get Green Cards, and bring their similarly uneducated family members with them to take similar jobs. But that's not necessarily a recipe for endless poverty. A perpetual underclass is only created if we withhold opportunities for people to rise above their standing, or prevent them from participating fully and equally in public life. Historically, most immigrants came to America with little education or money. But their children -- born here and thus with the citizenship that nobody can take from them -- learn (and constitute -- it's a two-way street) American cultural norms, take part in our school system, get educated, get jobs, and ultimately succeed. There is no reason we can't follow that route again, as long as we resist them temptation to be selfish with our riches. It is a perverse definition of "hand up" that restricts itself to those who already are at the top rungs. If we're serious about giving people a chance, then we have to take a chance of our own by believing in the pluck, mettle, grit, and determination of the poorest and least among us.

And at the end of the day, I don't think giving people a shot at the American Dream will result in the creation of an impoverished underclass. A guest-worker program creates a permanent underclass. Refusing to pass the DREAM act creates a permanent underclass. Excluding the immigrant community from the political conversation (as subjects, not just objects) creates a permanent underclass.

Giving people opportunity never does.

Deep South Rumblings

Good news and bad news for Democrats in the heart of Dixie.

The bad news: Freshman Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has comfortable leads over most of his potential Democratic challengers. The match-ups don't include a rematch between Chambliss and former Senator Max Cleland, whom Chambliss knocked off in 2002. Cleland hasn't expressed much interest in the race, however.

The good news: The rumors that Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran will retire continue to get stronger. The Democrats actually have a really strong candidate waiting in the wings in former Attorney General Mike Moore, who is wildly popular in the state. If Cochran bails and Moore runs, there is a serious chance the seat will flip.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Bright Line

While I suppose I can admit that there might be a fuzzy line when a permissible interrogation tactic becomes torture, here's a good rule of thumb: If the Mississippi Supreme Court in the 1920s was willing to reverse the conviction of a Black man charged with killing a White guy because his confession was elicited under the procedure in question, we're probably talking about torture.

The case in question is White v. State, 91 So. 903 (Miss. 1922), and the technique, needless to say, was water boarding (then known as "the water cure"). Four years later, in Fisher v. State, 110 So. 361, 362 (Miss. 1926), the court went all the way and flatly described water boarding as "a specie of torture well known to the bench and bar of the country."

Water boarding: too barbaric for the guardians of Jim Crow, but a-okay for the 21st century federal government.

Incidentally, there was nothing particularly progressive about the Mississippi Supreme Court of this era -- it was not an opponent of the system of Jim Crow oppression, or even the idea of coerced confessions generally. Nine years after Fisher, the Court held in Brown v. State, 173 Miss. 542 (1935) that a confession obtained after the (Black) suspects had been physically whipped during interrogation was admissible. This case eventually reached the US Supreme Court in the form of Brown v. Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278 (1936), which reversed and held that physical torture was a violation of the 14th amendment's due process clause. Another fun fact: the prosecutor in Brown was none other than John C. Stennis, who pressed the case forward fully aware that the defendants had been tortured by the police. Stennis would later become the U.S. Senator for the state of Mississippi, and the National Forensics League named its entire model Congress event after him.

Burke on the Delaware "Diversity" Controversy

Tim Burke really deserves more links from me than he gets. He consistently writes smart, in-depth pieces on interesting topics. And yet, I continue to ignore him. Not fair of me.

So, to start the long process of repentance, here is a pointer to Burke's thoughts on the University of Delaware's mandatory diversity seminars. I'm not sure if I agree with it 100%, but by and large I'm on board: Delaware's program was a joke. College students have the right to hold a diverse array of opinions, and should not be coerced down the One True Path. Seminars like this distort into unrecognizability serious academic debates on the relevant topics (as someone who wishes to be a scholar on Whiteness, I cringe at their simplistic definition of racism), as well as corrupt those theories in the public eye as nothing more than the sort of PC-leftist theory that, well, would show up in a dumb mandatory program. For sabotaging my future career path, Delaware loses even more points.

Burke, of course, explores these points in much greater detail and with his typical erudition. So go and read him.

Moving Down The Chain

Over at BlackProf, Angela Onwuachi-Willig asks whether the opponents of affirmative action really -- as they so often claim -- just want to fix educational problems earlier, rather than "lowering standards" at the university level.

For my part, I thought that argument collapsed entirely in the wake of the Parents United case, which, for those of us with bad memories, was about elementary education. And elementary education has nothing to do with "merit" (in the sense that, outside magnet schools, your school assignment isn't based on whether you're seen as a "good" or "bad" student). But yet, the same forces which organized to demolish affirmative action reared their head there as well, signifying that for some people, there is no program designed at targeting the forces that discriminate against Black students that is worthy of support.

Anyway, Professor Onwuachi-Willig points out opposition by a conservative anti-AA organization (The Project for Fair Representation -- an Orwellian name if there ever was one) to a mentor program for middle- and high-school students at some of the worst performing schools in Austin, Texas. The program enrollment is overwhelmingly Black and Latino, because, well, those are the groups that are overwhelmingly present in low-performing school (is it a violation of the color-blind principle to notice that?). The PFR objected based on the "suspicion" that the program was off-limits to White students. Now that they know this isn't true, I hope they'll drop the complaint. But honestly, is there no bigger barrier to "fair representation" in educational achievement than this sort of program? Are there not larger issues we might want to keep our eye on? When this is where these ostensibly "pro-equality" groups focus their attention, is it any wonder that they are perceived as anti-education and, ultimately, anti-Black?

Quote of the Evening Number Two

Don't mean to stack up on y'all, but this is too good to pass up. From Dr. Boyce Watkins, a Black professor:
For example, in academia, we have the so-called “elite” journals: mostly controlled by white males or those who think like them. When I have submitted work relevant to the black community to these journals, that work is then rejected. At which point, I am criticized for not having my work published in the so-called “premiere journals”. That’s like me forcing Garth Brooks to perform in the Apollo Theatre in Harlem , and saying “From the crowd’s reaction, it’s clear that you’re a shitty singer”.

The article in general is great, and particularly interesting to me for its clear ties into my outside research into subjectification (see my post, "The Diversity Rationale and the Problem of Subjectification" for an overview of the concept, or contact me if you want a copy of the article I'm currently drafting).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quote of the Evening

Daniel R. Ortiz, "Nice Legal Studies":
Many traditional liberals believe that keeping the public sphere free of religion is the only way to avoid taking sides in particular debates. Excluding religion does, of course, achieve neutrality among religions because no one of them is allow to participate in -- let alone dominate -- the public sphere. To the religious, however, exclusion certainly does not maintain neutrality between religion and secularism. By denying religion a public say, exclusion hands the field to secularism. Only secularists get to argue the full case for their claims. This type of civility may suppress conflict, then, but not neutrally. It does not respect all views equally or avoid taking a position on them. The secularists win. It is neutral only in the sense that it looks neutral to the majority because it corresponds with the majority's own view about how power ought to be allocated. This is civility's great strength. It allows the majority to think it isn't taking a position, especially since civility demands silence from those who disagree. It is civility's gentleness that allows the majority to overlook its brutal partiality. (11)

Paul Horwitz provides some excellent commentary on the article as a whole. See also my own commentary on civility, here and here (in comments.

Sexless Education

Another area where my teachers led me astray: having sex early makes teens less likely to engage in delinquency.

Oh, if only I had been encouraged to develop healthy sexual relationships in high school, maybe I wouldn't have ended up on the dead-end, crime-ridden path I travel down today!

Observations on Applications

As I finally start to get ahead of the endless torrent of applications I'm filling out, a few observations I wanted to get down on virtual paper. Most are recommendations and/or complaints to the shadowy cabal that designs these cursed things.

- The more you can let me send in online, the better. Making me send a thirty-five page writing sample by mail, rather than upload it, is ridiculous. However, I do actually give Chicago a minor exemption here, because they require it to come in with my transcript -- meaning it's the transcript office that has to deal with it, not me.

- Exception to the preceding rule: transcripts should not be submitted online -- at least until colleges start providing a mechanism for transmitting them. Until then, it's just awkward.

- Admissions office mailing addresses need to be reasonable. Name of office, street #, city, state, zip code is fine. Name of office, name of person, hall, room #, street #, city, state, zip code is not. Stanford, I'm looking at you.

- The more information you can give me about my chances of admission, the happier I'll be. Yale Law School, for example, breaks down its last three years of admissions into a grid matching LSAT scores to GPAs. I am gratified to know that my 177 LSAT raises my admissions chance from about 5% to 10%. Depressed, but gratified. The University of Virginia also scores points in this category. Places that just say "higher than this score", by contrast, are useless -- I don't know if being higher than that means my chances are good, or that they won't just use my application for paper football. This is particularly so when (as so often is the case for me), my LSAT/GRE scores are on opposite side of the cut-off from my GPA.

- The degree of centralization the LSDAS has managed to put together is truly impressive -- and welcome. I can do nearly everything online (except, oddly enough, submit recommendation forms, which seems to be a gimme). Grad schools are sort of following suit, and there appear to be a variety of different online services that manage applications. So Brown and Princeton are with one group, while Yale and Columbia are in another. However, if you're going to use an online service, make sure it's stable. Nothing is more aggravating than being in the middle of an application and having "Embark" crash on you. Like it does about once per session, on average.

- Also, be intelligent when designing your applications. NYU wouldn't let me preview my application until I checked the box acknowledging I had previewed my application. I do not appreciate being forced to lie, NYU.

- December 1st deadlines are really inconvenient for a college whose term ends on November 20th. December 15th is fine, though.

- Finally, at this stage in the game, I'm feeling roughly equally positive towards the schools that let me know their decision promptly as am towards the ones that actually admit me. This might change if I start the Winter Term on a five school rejection streak.